- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — The technology-dominated Nasdaq Composite Index suffered its biggest one-day loss in nearly 15 months yesterday, giving up nearly 60 points, after OPEC’s surprise decision to cut oil production sent stocks tumbling. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 150 points.

News that oil producers were lowering their output starting in November exacerbated a sell-off that was already under way on Wall Street yesterday. But analysts still attributed much of the downturn to the market being vulnerable, especially in technology, to selling following its big six-month rally.

“You are coming to the end of the quarter and people are a little worried that prices might be extended. To see some profit-taking at the end of the quarter is no surprise,” said Richard A. Dickson, senior market strategist at Lowry’s Research Reports in Palm Beach, Fla.

The Nasdaq closed down 58.02, or 3.1 percent, at 1,843.70. The last time the Nasdaq had a larger one-day loss was July 1, 2002, when it shed 59.41 to close at 1,403.80.

Wall Street’s other major gauges saw their biggest losses in just over four months. The Dow fell 150.53, or 1.6 percent, to 9,425.51. The Dow hasn’t had a bigger one-day point loss since May 19, when it forfeited 185.58 to finish at 8,493.39.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index declined 19.65, or 1.9 percent, to 1,009.38. The last time the S&P had a larger one-day point loss was also May 19, when it gave back 23.53 to close at 920.77.

Investors are becoming more wary of making bigger commitments to stocks, wondering if prices are too high, given six months of rallies and whether third-quarter and yearly earnings would be good enough to support Wall Street’s gains.

Trepidation increased yesterday after OPEC announced it would cut its oil-production target by 3.5 percent beginning in November, an unexpected move that caused Wall Street to worry that higher energy prices will undermine the economic recovery and corporate profits.

Wall Street’s weakest spot yesterday was the technology sector. Analysts said that was simply because investors have been doing the most buying in high-tech since the market started rallying back in March. The Nasdaq has surged nearly 50 percent from its March 11 low of 1,271.47.

Among the losers, Microsoft Corp. fell $1.14 to $28.46, Intel Corp. dropped $1.16 to $27.78 and Cisco Systems Inc. declined 83 cents to $20.32.

Media stocks also contributed to Wall Street’s losses after Viacom Inc., owner of CBS and MTV, cut its full-year earnings forecast, saying local advertising didn’t increase as much as had been anticipated. Viacom fell $1.42 to $38.90, the Walt Disney Co. was down 39 cents at $19.81 and AOL Time Warner Inc. was down 47 cents at $15.76.

Among gainers, the J.M. Smucker Co. climbed $1.81 to $43.58 after Deutsche Securities raised its recommendation on the food maker to “buy” from “hold.”

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